How do I prevent identity theft on social media?
From making your profiles private to relying on two-factor authentication, here are 18 answers to the question, “What are your most effective tips for preventing identity theft on social media?”
- Set Your Social Media Profiles and Posts to Private
- Be Mindful of the Photos You Post
- Report Scammers Immediately
- Delete Old Accounts
- Hide Your Birthday
- Don’t Click on Ads from Unverified Sources
- Beware of Browsing and Downloading Risks
- Read the Privacy Policies and Terms
- Filter Followers Regularly
- Never Connect to Public Wi-Fi
- Use an Internet Security Suite
- Don’t Get Lazy With Passwords
- Don’t Let Your Apps Share Info
- Be Revealing With Your Thoughts, Not About Yourself
- Activate Two-factor Authentication
Set Your Social Media Profiles and Posts to Private
Enable private profiles and posting to prevent criminals from accessing your information. Cybercriminals can access, collect, and leverage a wealth of information from public posts and profiles. Enabling the privacy feature on your profiles and posts ensures that only the people who follow you can see your content. Before publishing a post, review its sharing settings to make sure only your followers can only view it. Also, avoid sharing too much personal information on your posts to further mitigate identity theft.
Joe Flanagan, Founder, 90s Fashion World
Be Mindful of the Photos You Post
I had a friend who was nabbed for speeding a few years ago. He had a history of being pulled for speeding tickets and made a pithy joke about it on Twitter, which was accompanied by a visual aid—a photo of his ticket.
The problem is that he didn’t black out or cover up his personal information (i.e., address, birth date, etc.). Another friend came to his rescue and called him up to take it down, but he had left it up for a few hours. He was very lucky not to have had his identity stolen. He made himself very vulnerable to something like that. People need to be mindful of identity theft online. One way to not put yourself in harm’s way is not to disclose too much personal information on your social media channels.
Report Scammers Immediately
If you notice someone trying to follow you on a social media account, but you are already connected to them, this is probably a sign of a fake account trying to impersonate this person. Let the person know so they can alert their followers. You can also report the scammer’s profile so the social media platform can handle it from there. Taking action as soon as possible is essential to stop the scammer from continuing their wrongdoing.
Delete Old Accounts
Delete any social media accounts that you no longer use. Bots can target and hack into these unused accounts. Worse, these bots can use these accounts to post inappropriate comments online, which could end up harming your reputation. Keeping this in mind, deactivate your old accounts as soon as possible.
Hide Your Birthday
I had my identity stolen several years ago, and it was a tremendous hassle. First, I had to file a police report in order to go on record as disputing several new credit cards that were opened under my account. Then, I had to follow up with my bank and several department stores to wipe out the records.
The sad truth is that once your information is public to criminals, it’s out there forever. In the US, the two pieces of information that matter are your birthday and Social Security number. Many social platforms, email providers, and companies ask you for your birthday. I like to use a fake birthday on my accounts, which I do not share publicly. I keep track of the date I’ve used, in case I need to recover a lost password. It’s hidden from the public since it isn’t real, and to reduce the likelihood of accessing my accounts. And, it’s fake in case a database gets hacked. If you take this one step, you make it a little harder to steal one vital piece of unique information about you.
Don’t Click on Ads from Unverified Sources
Before clicking on an ad on your social media feed, verify its source. You can do this by quickly running a Google search on the user to see if they are a reputable company with an extensive digital footprint. You can also check their social media profiles to see if the account is real or if it’s spam.
Cybercriminals will often create fake ads to lure unsuspecting victims to fake landing pages. Once there, these victims are prompted to submit their personal data, including name, billing information, and shipping addresses as part of what they consider to be a trustworthy transaction. Unfortunately, the scammers behind the fake ad and landing page use the data to withdraw money from the victims’ accounts directly or sell the information to other criminals who impersonate the victim for financial gain.
Beware of Browsing and Downloading Risks
To keep your social handles safe, you must take protective measures elsewhere. Anything you do on your computers or smart devices can put you at higher risk of social identity theft, so avoid free third-party apps, games, or quizzes that require sign-ins or other software that cybersecurity experts from a trusted source haven’t thoroughly vetted.
In the past, even some malicious games found on legitimate app stores like Microsoft have stolen users’ social identities and accounts. Beware of every link you click or app you download and use high-quality anti-virus software that alerts you before you enter a suspicious site or download a potentially harmful file.
Read the Privacy Policies and Terms
Identity theft can occur through social media not only because of your interaction with other users but also because of your interaction with the site itself. Therefore, it is important to be careful with the information that you provide when signing up for a new account on a social media platform.
You should always carefully read the Terms of Service before agreeing to them, as they often require you to provide your full name, address, and other identifying information. Additionally, make sure to carefully read the privacy policies for each social media site you use. These policies often describe how the site collects and uses your information, and they are an important step in helping you understand how you can best protect your privacy while using social media.
Filter Followers Regularly
Whether you run a bigger brand account or a personal page, you can ensure your page is completely secure by scanning your follower list regularly. You can either use third-party apps or conduct a manual scan of any bots or suspicious accounts. When you spot these accounts, remove them from your follower list or block them. If you filter your followers this way, the chances of them stealing images, personal data, or tracking your activity are significantly lower.
Never Connect to Public Wi-Fi
The easiest way to get hacked on social media is to allow them access to your accounts unknowingly. Most public Wi-Fi is not encrypted, allowing hackers to easily access your data, or worse, give your device viruses and malware.
When you connect to public Wi-Fi, there is a possibility that they can use the network to enter your phone’s system and steal important information such as your birthday, your mother’s maiden name, addresses, and even your photos and videos. Hence, as much as possible, use your own mobile data.
Use an Internet Security Suite
An internet security suite may seem like a bit too much and may even seem to take the fun out of your social networking routine, but for securing your information and keeping track of who has access to your data on the internet, you can never be too careful.
These services send you timely reminders to change your password at regular intervals and inform you of data leaks that may have exposed crucial information. Moreover, such a service keeps your accounts and information protected even when you aren’t looking, which means you can count on the security of your data at all times.
Ultimately, remember that even when you use it for all things fun, social media has its share of pitfalls, and internet security suites can protect you from potentially catastrophic scenarios such as identity theft.
Don’t Get Lazy With Passwords
You’ve probably got a lot of passwords to keep track of. It’s easy to get into the habit of lowering the difficulty of your passwords in order to help you remember them. You may even have used the same password for multiple accounts, including your social media.
No matter how secure your password is, it can be stolen, and if it is, that means you’ve potentially opened up all your accounts to being invaded. Don’t get lazy with your password conventions, even if it means a bit of inconvenience. It’s better to have to write your passwords or open up a document on your device than it is to risk being compromised because you didn’t take proper precautions.
Don’t Let Your Apps Share Info
Be wary of app sharing. Apps will often let you sign in with another app instead of creating a whole new ID. The problem with this, though, is that the new app is using data from the old app. If one app gets hacked, then every app linked to it is at risk. To prevent identity theft on social media, create a new login for each app you use.
Be Revealing With Your Thoughts, Not About Yourself
Facebook remains the platform on which you can reveal the most about where you are, where you’ve worked, and where you’ve lived. Facebook also provides the safest and most user-friendly ways to make everything you post private to only those you want to share your information with.
That’s trickier on other platforms, particularly Twitter. Don’t get sucked into a vortex of disclosing everything about yourself on that channel. You can be open and honest about how you’re feeling on Twitter, but I’ve seen users disclose information about their locations, where their children go to school, where they’re traveling to, etc. They get so caught up in disclosing their feelings and experiences of the moment that they don’t realize they’re pouring out too much detailed information about their whereabouts and about their private lives. Make sure you draw a line if you’re regularly posting on Twitter or any other social media platform.
Activate Two-factor Authentication
With two-factor authentication in place, any access to your social media accounts will be flagged, and you will be required to enter an OTP code to authorize. Most instances of identity theft on social media happen when malicious hackers gain control of your account because of weak passwords and the lack of a multi-factor authentication feature in place.
Go to your social media account settings and enable two-factor authentication using your mobile phone number. Additionally, use a secure password manager like Google Password Manager to help you keep your passwords secure and get notified in case of an issue with any of them.